We've told you about several searches by local law enforcement recently- one that is still ongoing for Roland Bell. He's an armed robbery suspect that jumped into the Roanoke River last month to escape officers. He has still not been found. Another search ended sadly with a boy found dead in the Neuse River after being swept away while fishing with his father.
These searches take a lot of resources and man hours. Brittany Creamer rode along with Pitt County Sheriff Neil Elks as he explained what goes into a search and rescue.
By air, land , or water the Pitt County Sheriff's Department is prepared for any kind of search or rescue. Neil Elks says deputies never know what they're going to find when they head out to find someone.
"It's like a treasure hunt looking for any surprises out there," said Elks.
Crews look for missing people and criminals on the run. In late April, Pitt County deputies began their search for suspects after three men robbed Motorcycle Dreamz near Greenville leading deputies more than 35 miles in a high speed chase. One suspect was arrested the night of the robbery. One man turned himself in later, but deputies searched several weeks for Rolland Bell who jumped off a bridge into the Roanoke River.
Deputies are often called on to help find missing people, young and old, that may have wondered from home or a facility. A silver alert is issued if the missing person is elderly or has a medical condition. An Amber Alert is issued for missing children 17 years old or younger.
"A lot of times we make decisions on what family members gave us. They know them better than anyone. So if we think they're in danger we do the silver alert," said Elks.
Sheriff Elks says his department averages roughly 100 searches a year and in the past 2 months have noticed an increase. In some cases, deputies help when there is an accident. The sheriff's office
helped look for a 10-year-old boy swept away by the current while fishing with his father in Lenoir county a month ago. It left deputies scouring The Neuse River for days with a sad ending as the boy was found dead.
"The current just took him away," said a family member during the search.
North Carolina Highway Patrol leases out their helicopter services to assist.
"During the days we just use our eyes, but on our nighttime aircraft we use an infrared looking unit that looks for heat and we can
find somebody like that." said pilot Nick Cinnfarra.
The Highway Patrol says they use the research by the Sheriffs Department to give them clues where to search.
Even with all these people and equipment. The Sheriff's Department has one more option to turn to - to sniff out suspects and missing people: K-9s. The Pitt County Sheriffs Department just received it's newest deputies, four New K-9's. The dogs are half-way through training, and are now learning how to track down people and drugs. Deputies guide them step-by-step.
The dogs are held in very high regard- like any other officer.
"They're considered an officer. If you assault one of the K-9s, a
person will be charged with assault on a law enforcement official."
These four-legged law enforcement officers will soon be part of
more successful rescues and recoveries, possibly even helping to find Roland Bell, the robbery suspect still missing nearly three weeks after police say he jumped off a bridge to escape officer.
The Sheriff's Department says K-9 team will help lead to many happy endings for families and businesses.
The 4 new K-9s will complete training by the end of June.
These searches can cost the Department thousands of dollars all depending on how many resources are used and for how long.